Anna David Knows A Lot About Prostitutes
You might recognize Anna David from G4’s “Attack of the Show.” As the popular program’s sex and relationship expert, David gracefully dishes advice that's as entertainingly witty as it is honest. While a go-to answer gal for bedroom matters, her expertise extends further than one might imagine.
David's second novel, "Bought," explores the world of high-class "kept women." Described as sugar babies taken care of by sugar daddies, these gals exchange their bodies and companionships for gifts. While not prostitutes, that's who lead David to this new, growing group.
It’s this curious moral territory which David, a former LA resident (she's called NYC home for a year and a half,) explores in “Bought,” the latest offering from the “Party Girl” author. LAist caught up with her to talk about the new book, life away from LA, and why there’s no better place to get sober than where she did: Los Angeles.
LAist: What's "Bought" about?
Anna David: “Bought” is about a journalist who does a story on high-class prostitution, and one prostitute in particular. The journalist starts to get into a very codependent, dysfunctional friendship with her, and gets sucked in to this prostitute’s orbit. She starts to believe that this girl has it all figured out, and that she has more honest relationships with the men in her life than our heroine.
What made you want to write about prostitution?
I’m obsessed with writing about drugs and drug addiction, the sort of seedy underbelly of so-called glamorous things. I had done a piece for “Details” on crystal meth addiction in Hollywood. Back then, according to the media, the only people who did crystal meth were truck drivers and sketchy, toothless people.
One guy said to me “you should be writing about the high-class hookers,” because that’s who people were doing the meth with. I mentioned that as an aside to my editor, and this editor assigned me. I realized I had this massive story to write and no idea how to do it.
How'd you do it?
I ended up sort of infiltrating this world, and spending about six months in it. Luckily everybody in this world hated this madame, so all these people talked to me for this story. I spent far longer on it than I should’ve, and in the process my editor left the magazine. It ended up being this story which was 1,200 words and that was really silly.
I had spent all this time, learned all this information, and it ended up being this story without all the interesting bits. The book grew out of a resentment.
Do you think there’s an ethical difference between kept women and traditional prostitutes?
I don’t think any of it is a question of ethics or morality. I believe that the way women feel about this has everything to do with the values they learned from their family and what lessons they got in their formative years about sexuality and money.
I don’t think it’s up to anyone to say how another woman should value her sexuality. I saw, certainly in LA, gorgeous, young, trophy wives on the arms of fat, old producers. I don’t see how that’s really any different. I am really interested in sparking the conversation that women and men use their sexuality to get what they want. We are a hypocritical society when it comes to this kind of thing.
Do you think drug and alcohol addiction is especially prominent in this community?
I don’t know this first hand, but I speculate that there’s a line that you cross that changes you forever. In order to deal with that life, and to tell yourself it’s okay, you want to escape. And that’s what I saw. A lot of the girls did pain pills, which seemed completely appropriate, that they were trying to blot out reality a little bit.
I know from being an addict that when I was active in my addiction nothing really mattered. I didn’t value my body, or my mind, or anything. And while it didn’t take me to this place, I would say that addiction is probably fairly common in that world, in both the kept women scenarios and the high-class prostitute scenarios.
Do you think many of these women have trauma histories motivating their non-traditional lives?
I think it’s hard to make a statement about that. Our friend Dr. Drew would surely say that there is a trauma history, and honestly the women that I interviewed for the “Details” story had suffered actual sexual abuse. I went on CBS [video below], and at first they wanted me to come on with a kept woman, but they ended up changing their mind. Through that process I ended up speaking to all these different women.
The sense that I got was there was a real difference between them and the women that I’d interviewed for the “Details” piece. I feel like the difference was choice versus need. The kept women were girls who were going to college, or who had been in college, and had decided that they’d rather be supported. Whereas the other girls had no educational opportunities and would make minimum wage if they weren’t prostitutes.
Next week you're doing a reading/signing in LA. What's it like to appear at Book Soup?
When you have a book coming out, you know there are 300,000 other books coming out, and you’re not Dan Brown or James Patterson. Most bookstores treat you accordingly, but my experience at Book Soup is that they make you feel really special. Last time, for “Party Girl,” they made it a fun, exciting celebration, which is really rare when today is all about the chain bookstores. They’re the most amazing bookstore.
What’s something about New York that you wish was more like LA?
It’s not easy to do things in New York. New York is very exciting, very vibrant, but you can’t just run around and get a bunch of things done in an afternoon. I’m a big run-around-and-get-a-bunch-of-things-done kind of a person. I find everything is sort of laborious and difficult. It’s so much easier to do anything in LA. LA is such an easy place to live if you can figure out how to avoid rush hour at the 405 and the 10.
What do you miss most about living in LA?
Obvious things like the weather and of course my friends. But I I miss the recovery in LA. The recovery community is much stronger. In Los Angeles, you throw a rock and you’re going to hit ten sober people in the face. It’s so common and there’s absolutely no shame about it. In New York it is different. It’s way more of a novelty, people find it bizarre.
Why do you think recovery is so strong in LA?
LA is a fantastic place to bottom out. I think the better a place is to bottom out, the stronger the recovery. I am so grateful that I bottomed out, and got sober in LA.
What makes LA such a good place to hit bottom?
LA's a place that attracts a lot of people who are sick. I was one of them. There’s this sense that terrific opportunities can come along and change your life overnight. I think that a lot of us go there who are very deluded, and God bless us, these are my favorite people in the world, but that's going to attract a lot of people who are going to bottom out on drugs and alcohol.
Do you think LA made your drinking/using worse?
When “Party Girl” came out people in mainstream media would say “oh, you’re in Hollywood, that’s why you’re a drug addict.” I always said if I’d been on a farm in Des Moines I would’ve found the random farm hand that dealt coke on the side. Hollywood didn’t do anything to me, I did this to myself, and I did it because I have a disease.
What made you want to get clean and sober?
I don't know if it's really about wanting to get better. I think we only get better when we're pushed to the limit of what we deem tolerable. For some people, that's losing everything and sleeping in a gutter. For others, it's when your outside world looks perfectly fine but inside, you're crumbling, spiritually bankrupt and suicidal. I only got sober because I knew it wasn’t working anymore. I wanted to die most days when my addiction got really bad. I knew I just wanted to find a way to stop needing to ingest copious amounts of cocaine every time I was home for more than an hour at a time.
I had no idea that I was going to be given another life, that I was going to have a whole new attitude, that I was going to discover spirituality, and that I was going to thrive. I can’t even say “all my dreams came true when I got sober” because I didn’t really have dreams before I got sober. I had a very small, depressing vision for my life.
How do you stay sober today?
As much interaction with sober alcoholics as I can manage. It keeps me remembering that this is my problem, and I’m fundamentally different in this way. I follow the suggestions of sober people who came along before me, whose sobriety I admire. I help other women with their sobriety too.
Pick a favorite: “Celebrity Rehab,” “Intervention,” “or Sober House?”
“Sober House.” The truth is I was devoted to “Intervention” until “Celebrity Rehab” and “Sober House” came along. I love Dr. Drew, he has been incredibly helpful to the recovery community, so I’ll support anything he does. But “Sober House” is the most riveting hour of television ever to hit my life. It kind of was like being able to revisit a part of my life that was slightly crazier and more dramatic than what I really saw.
What do you think of Twitter?
I love Twitter. It’s such a nice antidote to the seething cauldron of hate that is the Internet. I think both Facebook and Twitter somehow managed to make our interactions with strangers incredibly positive. I have met some of the nicest most incredible people because of Twitter. I definitely have a semi-addictive relationship with it.
My joke with my friend in LA was “everybody’s out on a boat right now and I’m in my apartments with my cats.” Twitter was the first thing that convinced me that no one was doing anything exciting ever.
You recently started blogging regularly. How do you like it?
My blog is something I was very into a long time ago and sort of got over it. Then I became friends with this girl who loved it. I watched her interact on her blog, and on Twitter, with the people who watched her on TV. Then I made this conscious decision to have fun with it, and it’s been a completely different experience ever since. I have a very tight little community on my blog. I have people that post comments every day and I love these guys -- it’s all guys and two girls.
Anna David Photos by Hamesh Shahani / used with permission | Book Cover/Cityscape Image by Eddie deAngelini / used with permission
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